Student presents initiative to overturn pepper spray ban

By Nick Kolev

Boston University News Service

Boston University Student Government heard a presentation from a student hoping to overturn the long-held ban on pepper spray on Nov. 28, citing concerns over safety and changing laws.

BU has a ban on pepper spray possession anywhere on University property, including dorms, classrooms and dining halls, according to the student lifebook.

College of Engineering senior Ava Remler said she had long disagreed with the policy and her presentation to StuGov, aided by a group of friends, was a first step in overturning the ban.

“I presented this initiative after talking to a bunch of different people who thought that it was a good idea in order to advocate for the change of the policy in any way that allows students to carry it,” Remler said.

Remler said she first found out about the ban roughly a year ago when friends of hers had their pepper spray confiscated, something with which she disagreed.

“I figured that that was pretty unfair, especially given how pepper spray is completely non-lethal,” she said. “It’s extremely popular specifically for women to carry. “

That incident, Remler said, sparked an attempt to start a petition which was not successful.

“It was a lot more aggressive against the administration,” Remler said. “And I think the process we’re doing now is way more collaborative, and way more effective.

Remler said the next steps include gathering research as well as support before hopefully drafting a senate resolution and meeting with the Dean of Students office to evaluate the policy with the school administration.

BU spokesperson Colin Riley wrote in an email he believes the Dean of Students office is, or will be, discussing this with student government, 

“That may lead to consideration of a policy change since Massachusetts no longer requires those over the age of 18 to have a Firearms Identification Card (FID), as it once did as recently as eight or nine years ago,” Riley wrote.

In 2014, Massachusetts overturned a requirement to hold an FID in order to possess pepper spray. BU’s policy however has yet to change.

Remler cited Hanna Dworkin, StuGov senate chair, as someone who gave her a lot of advice and helped her figure out the process of working through the initiative in a feasible manner.

Dworkin, a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences, said she was excited to hear about Remler’s initiative as overturning the ban was something StuGov had previously considered.

“This is something that student government has been wanting to do for a while, but it is something very involved,” Dworkin said. “So when Ava came to us with some research already done, it was a really great opportunity for collaboration.”

Dworkin said students who wished to show their support or assist with the initiative to overturn the pepper spray ban could either email the StuGov Senate or fill out a survey emailed to all students recently by Student Body President Dhruv Kapadia.

“I think it’s definitely feasible if we go about it in the right way,” Dworkin said, “and I’m excited to see where it goes.”

Remler said the initiative is important because it’s an issue of security, and something that will allow students, and particularly women, to feel safer on campus.

“Having access to something like this really deters aggressors from attacking individuals, especially when it’s accessible, “ Remler said. “I just want to restate how important something like this is in protecting people.”

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